“A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” - Lao Tzu. Well, after months of planning I’ve finally taken that first step. Now I find myself in a foreign city on the first day of my Wanderjahr. Thankfully (due to smart planning) ...by dcampSaturday, 20 July 2013
At one point or another everyone dreams about exploring the world and experiencing all that it has to offer. I first developed the travel bug when I was a young boy and its stuck with me for my whole life (and I'm not exactly a young boy anymore). ...by dcampFriday, 13 December 2013
When the travel bug first hit me I wrote down all of the places I wanted to visit in a 150 destination Global Bucket List. Who would have ever thought that this wouldn't end up being enough? You can find the list by reading my blog: A Tale of 2 Buck ...by dcampMonday, 14 October 2013
I think I must have been about 12 years old when I first started to seriously dream about traveling. It all started when I went with a friend to an enormous used book store (more like a barn) near my home in New Jersey. It was here that I came acro ...by dcampSaturday, 14 December 2013
My obsession with traveling around the world came from two primary sources – both books. The first was Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Vern and the second was A Vagabond Journey Around the World by Harry Franck. Both of these books made it abu ...by dcampMonday, 15 July 2013
On my travels throughout the world, I've seen many, many great sites, met a lot of interesting people, and tasted lots of food (some good and some not so good.) Although I certainly am not a fruitarian, I do have a keen eye for fruit – and on my tra ...by neytiri12345Wednesday, 02 October 2013
Zoos are a place that we've all visited at one time or another. Some are good, some not so good. Well, over the weekend I cam across a place that made me look at the keeping of animals in a whole new light. It's called the Pearcedale Moonlit Sanct ...by dcampTuesday, 02 July 2013
Yes, I've been meaning to write a followup to my earlier blog post "Sunsets" – but, you know how things always get in the way... been busy travelling, you see... A personal goal of mine has been to see a sunrise on as many continents as possible, an ...by foamfollowerThursday, 25 July 2013
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No trip to NYC can ever be called complete without a trip to the city’s most famous (and iconic) building – the Empire State Building. Completed in 1931, it stood as the tallest building in the world for over 40 years and is widely hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Even though it has now been surpassed as the tallest building in NYC (by the new One World Trade Center) its impact has remained undiminished. The simple fact is that the Empire State Building will never play second fiddle in the skyscraper stakes for it has transcended into something more, something cultural, something inspiring and something that represents everything great about NYC.
From miles away, as you approach the city, you’ll be able to pick out its towering spire that has become synonymous with the New York City skyline. However, there’s something that you’ve probably noticed, but never given much thought to – the fact that virtually every time you gaze upon the Empire State Building, it’s shaded in a different wash of color.
This tradition of lighting up the top of the building at night with floodlights started in 1964, and since this time has marked a variety of events including the 80th birthday of “Old Blue Eyes” (Frank Sinatra), when it was bathed in blue light to the royal colors of Purple and Gold to thank the UK for playing the Star Spangled Banner during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony following the September 11 attacks.
The London Eye is a fantastic way to get your bearings in London when you first arrive. At nearly over 400 feet in height, you get a bird's eye view of everything that the city has to offer. They say it's the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe - and I can believe it! (I've heard rumors that NYC wants to build a bigger one - that's going on my bucket list if it's ever made.)
The tickets were a bit pricey at nearly £20 - and nearly twice as much if you want priority boarding. For the price, you get 30 minutes in one of the capsules that hold about 25 people. You can ride the Ferris wheel at day or night. I chose the day and needless to say, I was impressed. The capsule revolves at a fairly sedate pace and takes 1/2 hour to make one complete revolution. You get sweeping views of the Thames, St. James Park, Parliament, and, of course, Big Ben. Oh, yes, if you look closely, you'll spot Buckingham Palace too. There are also interactive touchscreen guides within the capsule, a fairly recent addition from what I've heard.
You receive a discount if you book online and they offer a host of different experiences that revolve around the Eye, including a mulled wine experience, chocolate tasting and even champagne and canapés – for an additional price, of course.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited somewhere that inspired a stronger sense of horrible and isolation as the place I visited today. The fact that it started out as a school makes it all the more chilling. It is formally know as Tuol Sleng, but most people refer to it simply as S-21. It is the prison where the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia brought anyone they felt was plotting against their regime. Sadly, most of these were innocent members of the population who wanted nothing more than the freedom to express their opinions peacefully. The Khmer Rouge tolerated no such freedom and ruthlessly tortured and killed anyone who challenged their supremacy – both Cambodians and foreigners alike.
Now, some 30 years after the last of the horrors were played out there is an odd sense of serenity about the place. The landscape of the school is finely manicured and benches are situated in shady spots around the perimeter of the grounds. However, there is no way to disguise that fact that between 1975 and 1979 over 17,000 people were brutally tortured and murdered here, with only seven known survivors. If there is anywhere in the world where the souls of the dead would linger on in anguish it is surely here. It is something that you are hard pressed to ignore as you wander through the quiet halls of the museum, which the school grounds have now become.
During my visit two things particularly were burned into my mind – probably forever. The first was a series of pictures of those who were brought to S-21 and never knew freedom again. While there were hundreds on display, it was the photos of a handful of Westerners, mostly tourists, who were captured by the Regime that made the strongest impression. The look on their faces can only be described as utterly devoid of hope. While still alive at the time of the photo, it was as if they were already dead. There are no words to describe it.
It's hard to really understand how the Sydney Opera House has become such a famous icon. First off, it's not really a very attractive building. But then again, it is unique. Secondly, it wasn't even designed by an Australian. Then again, neither was the Statue of Liberty. Okay, it seems like my arguments aren't really stacking up here, so I'll just go with the fact that it is arguably Australia's most famous landmark. That obviously counts for something. The other thing that must be considered is that it does sit on the shores of one of the world's greatest natural harbors and is situated nicely in the shadow of another famous landmark, the Sydney Harbor Bridge. When you consider all this I'm starting to wonder why I ever began the argument in the first place.
One of the coolest things about the Opera House is that it's not just a landmark, but also a world class venue. Acts in just the last year have ranged from the Opera Winfrey Show to Sting with a huge variety of others in between. Even for those who wouldn't normally sit through an Opera or a Symphony Orchestra performance often give these more dignified pursuits a try just because of where they're being held. What more could you even want from a landmark than the ability to entice people to try new things. Not to mention the fact that other than perhaps Times Square in NYC, it's arguably the next coolest place on the planet to spend New Year's Eve.
From the Opera House all you need to do is look left toward the mouth of the Harbor (too far to actually see) and you can't possibly miss the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Construction on the bridge began in the 1920's and it is still the world's widest long-span bridge. For a long time it was also the tallest structure in Sydney and was the city's foremost landmark for nearly 30 years before the Opera House took that honor away. But regardless of this fact, it has one thing that the Opera House can never claim. It can be climbed!
Any visit to the Statue of Liberty is guaranteed to be interesting; after all it is one of the most famous icons in the world. For a change I decided to take the ferry from Liberty State Park on the New Jersey side. The statue can also be accessed just as easily from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. I’ve made the trip from the NY side several times in the past and decided to get a glimpse from a slightly different perspective this time around.
The trip to the statue takes about 30 minutes over flat, still waters – longer if it’s rough. The green tint of the statue’s oxidized copper shell is unmistakeable and visible from an amazing distance. As you draw closer to Liberty Island the size of the statue becomes clearer and you realize what a feat it had been for the French to construct it, transport it across the Atlantic and then have it reassembled in its present location – all-in-all quite a gift. Perhaps we don’t give the French enough credit, although I don’t know if I’d say that too loudly.
I did the mandatory climb up to the crown to experience the amazing views over the Hudson River, all the way to Manhattan Island. If you are planning a trip to NYC this has to be at the top of your ‘must do’ list. It is the classic NY experience, along with visiting the Empire State Building and Times Square. However, on this occasion it wasn’t famous landmarks that had drawn me here. Instead, it was a quest to learn more about my family history.